Beach communities in North and SC emptied out on Wednesday as Hurricane Florence threatened to unleash pounding surf and potentially deadly flooding as the most powerful storm to make a direct hit on the states in decades.
Florence was centered more than 470 miles east of of Myrtle Beach Wednesday with sustained winds of 125 mph.
"Hurricane Florence is the strongest storm to target the Carolinas and this part of our country in decades", Byard said.
While many coastal residents heeded mandatory evacuation orders, others boarded up homes and businesses and chose to courageous the storm, which is forecast to trigger severe flash flooding as it dumps as many as three feet (almost a metre) of rain in some areas. Since the forecast may change as Hurricane Florence evolves, the NWS Boston said its offices are launching extra radiosonde balloons.
"I can't emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge and inland flooding with this storm", one NWS forecaster said.
President Donald Trump on Twitter warned of the storm's dangers and praised his administration's handling of past hurricanes, rejecting criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria.
Note in the models how the Florence storm track now dips south and west after landfall in the Carolinas - a rare move for a hurricane approaching in the Atlantic so far north and west.
Forecasters say Florence is expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, then slow down and dump 1 to 2½ feet of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
Storm surge flooding does not include floods caused by the heavy rain from the hurricane, such as what happened a year ago in Houston with Hurricane Harvey and in North Carolina in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew.
Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in SC.
The hurricane, which originated in the ocean off the west coast of Africa, is now being called a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it closed the ports of Wilmington and Moorehead City in North Carolina and restricted port operations in Charleston, South Carolina. From there, people will be transported to open shelters, he said.
In Wilmington, N.C., the fire department is urging people to prepare for at least seven days of hardship, collecting water and nonperishable foods.
This means Florence could hover over the southeast states, pouring unsafe rainfall causing flash flooding and river flooding - some areas are forecast to get from 15 to 20 inches to 30 inches or more localized areas.
Hurricane Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas hard. "It's a big one", he said.
"This storm is going to be a direct hit", he added.
Another 25 percent of deaths are related to rain, he said.
"Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?" said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Trojniar said she and her husband were packing up belongings and planned to stack sandbags around their single-floor home in Wilmington's Landfall neighborhood near the ocean before checking into a hotel to ride out the storm. "We know there's probably going to be loss of power for a number of days".